‘Bates Motel’ Series Finale Recap: “This Is How It Ends, Isn’t It?”

After five fantastic years, it’s finally checkout time at ‘Bates Motel’. I’m happy to say I was there from the very beginning, and have written recaps of every single episode. Does the finale do the show justice? Well, let’s just say the series goes out with a bang.

The final episode begins where last week’s story left off. Regina drives Norman and Romero to the place in the woods where Norman left his mother’s body. At a certain point, Romero has Regina stop the car and lets her go, leaving him and Norman to arrive at the shallow grave together. Norman remarks on how Alex must have really loved her, and Romero takes a moment to beat Norman’s face to a pulp. He then makes the mistake of ignoring Norman and goes back to the body. A moment later, Norman sneaks up behind Romero with a rock and bashes him with it. He then gets his hands on Alex’s gun and shoots him several times, killing him. It’s a pretty undignified end for someone who was once the show’s most dignified character.

Beaten up and exhausted, Norman falls asleep in the snow and dreams/hallucinates about the time when he and Norma first moved to White Pine Bay. (Footage from the original pilot episode is incorporated here.) Even after he wakes up, Norman’s break from reality continues and he puts Norma’s dead body into the car and drives back to the motel – thinking all along that it’s still that first day when they moved to the area.

One of the big things that the writers of this episode expect viewers to buy is the fact that the police wouldn’t be staking out the Bates house and motel to be on the lookout for Norman. If memory serves, a throwaway line early on mentions that they checked both the Bates home and Romero’s home, but the idea that the cops would check them and then completely abandon the area is pretty hard to swallow. However, for the purposes of this finale, Norman needs to return to the house and this was about the only way to do it. Nonetheless, it’s still something that bothered me about the finale.

Norman returns home and takes his mother up to the house. He then goes down to the motel and opens it up for business, as if nothing happened. A mother and her two young sons stop by looking for a place for the night and she wonders out loud if the area is safe. “It’s nothing if not safe,” Norman confidently replies. He gives the family a room, and watching the two young boys, Norman can’t help but think of his own brother. Later that night, he calls Dylan, tells him he’s at the house and invites him over to dinner. Haven’t we seen this scenario play out once already this season?

Believing that the police will just rush in and kill Norman, Dylan drives to the house that night to try to talk him into turning himself in. Before he goes in, he calls Emma to tell her where he is and that he loves her very much. I have to take a moment here to applaud actor Max Thieriot for his performance in this episode. While Highmore and Farmiga have gotten all the kudos for their performances on ‘Bates Motel’ (and rightfully so), Thieriot – who, let’s be honest, wasn’t much of an actor when he first started on this series – has really come into his own. His work in this finale is impressive.

Dylan notices a light on in a motel room and bangs on the door. He warns the woman that his brother is mentally ill and shouldn’t have checked her in. He gives her some cash and tells her to take her boys to another motel down the road as soon as possible.

Finally, Dylan goes up to the house and Norman invites him in for dinner. He’s not there long before he (once again) tells Norman that he’s sick and he wants to get him help. He tries to get through to Norman that their mother is dead, but then notices someone sitting at the dinner table. Entering the room, Dylan sees that Norman has propped up Norma’s corpse at the head of the table. Dylan immediately throws up on the floor.

The two brothers go back in the kitchen, and Norman comes to the conclusion that it’s going to be either a life in prison or a life in a mental institution for him. He pulls a large knife off the counter, forcing Dylan to pull out his gun (which he got earlier in the episode from old pal Remo). Dylan begs Norman not to make him do this, but Norman charges at him and Dylan has to pull the trigger, shooting his brother in the chest. It’s a mercy killing. As Norman collapses to the floor in his brother’s arms, he looks up at Dylan and simply says, “Thank you.”

As Norman’s spirit leaves this world and goes to the next, he has a vision of being reunited with Norma in the afterlife. Years later, viewers see the motel and house being sold to a new couple. Elsewhere, Dylan, Emma and their daughter share a happy family embrace.

Episode Verdict

The final episode feels more like an epilogue to a well-told story than what we’d typically see in a series finale. It reaches back to the pilot episode to bring Norman’s story full circle, and while it does stretch plausibility a bit to stage the final moments, it’s exactly the scene the show deserves. The ending is not only appropriate, it feels like the only ending that does the character of Norman Bates justice.

I’ve said over and over again that if Freddie Highmore doesn’t get an Emmy for his performance this season, they might as well stop giving the trophies out. He’s been fantastic. Future TV and movie creators can pretty much forget about ever taking on this Hitchcock character again. Highmore was so impressive, I’m going to think of him first now instead of Anthony Perkins whenever someone name-drops Norman Bates.

I’ll miss this show, but thankfully we’ll see these creators and performers in future work. Freddie Highmore will be joining show-runner Kerry Ehrin for a new series titled ‘Long Distance’, a drama about a long-distance relationship. While Highmore is just listed as one of the producers currently, it’s possible he may act in the project as well.

As for the other show-runner, Carlton Cuse, he’s off to make a TV version of ‘Jack Ryan’ that is highly anticipated. Vera Farmiga is heading back to the movies (she’s been cast in an upcoming Godzilla film), while Max Thieriot is currently shooting a TV movie about the Navy SEALS. Nestor Carbonell will star in and direct the crime-drama ‘The Locker’, and Olivia Cooke will be seen again in a little movie titled ‘Ready Player One’, directed by some guy named Spielberg.

Before we drive off and leave the motel in our rear-view mirror, it’s your last chance to sound off: What did you think of the finale and the series as a whole?

4 comments

  1. I thought it was a good finale, and a fitting finale, but I also don’t think it’s among the show’s best episodes. The show at its best allowed both Farmiga and Highmore to really tear into their characters. Neither got the chance to do that here, which is a little disappointing.

    I agree with Shannon that the police abandoning the motel and house was pretty implausible, but it was ultimately necessary because the story needed to end there. I also thought that Romero was kind of a dumbass for turning his back to Norman. A smarter man would have killed him and then dug up Norma. That goes to an earlier complaint about how poorly Romero’s character has been written this year.

    I thought it was very ballsy of the writers to totally break from Hitchcock’s film. This isn’t a prequel to Psycho after all. It’s a completely alternate story. Even after the Marion Crane change-up, I didn’t expect that.

    Despite some ups and downs over the seasons, Bates Motel was overall a terrific show and I’m glad it got to end on the show-runners’ terms.

  2. Ryan

    I watched the first season (and possibly the very beginning of the second) and the how just didnt work for me. I didn’t care about the brother, or the drug stuff….maybe i’ll catch it on Netflix or whereever down the line

  3. Paul Anderson

    To me, Bates Motel was one of those rare shows that improved every season up until the very end. Breaking Bad is the best example of this, and while Bates isn’t in the same ballpark as BB, it was definitely a very entertaining show that featured some exceptional acting. Highmore was just astounding this season. He deserves, at the very least, an Emmy nod for that performance. I will miss the show, but with so many great shows airing these days, I’m sure the void will be filled quickly. Thanks for the ride Bates Motel!

  4. Pam

    Loved the show. I owned a 1950s motel for many years and lived on the property so I could relate. I was glad that Norman didn’t end up in prison but was with his mother in the end.

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